Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Coming down the mountain: After the retreat

Be still and know that I am God.
Image source: Eric Bartley
Psalm 46:10

I woke up this morning to a beautiful display of cloud to cloud lightning, just like this picture. "Time to write," I thought, so here I am, coffee at the ready, listening to the thunder and to the still, quiet voice.

I can not tell you all that occurred on the retreat; for some things there are not words, so I will wait for the fruit of it to come tapping out of the keyboard, to come laughing out of my mouth, to come weeping out of our shared stories, and to come sweating out of my work. The expressions of God in us are poems that are lived.

I will share this little story, because it is mine to give, and because it points to the finger of God, stirring our little lives.

Two years ago this weekend, my sister came to me here in Texas. It had been years since we'd seen each other, and we managed finally to find each other in our sisterhood. 

It is so hard to explain that last sentence. Eleven years separate us. She longed for a sister and when I was born I was given away to be adopted. She was told that I had died, and then she wasn't even given a funeral to show her how to grieve. I was a gaping wound in her heart, a loss. On my part, I was told I had half brothers somewhere. A sister wasn't mentioned. When I went searching for my birth family at 18, I was told by someone who knew the family that I should quit looking, so I did. Then our mother found me. One of the many surprises was her, a sister.

A sister...another of those inexplicable gifts. I could go on and on chasing this tangent, trying to wrap other words around such a word. For the present, I can only leave the word, hanging like a bead of nectar from the honeysuckle. If you have never tasted sisterhood, this is close...

Image Source: http://themagiconions.blogspot.com/2009/08/honeysuckle-nectar.html

On her weekend visit, when we found each other all over again, she noticed something about my life. Not feeling quite secure enough in me, she left her gentle rebuke and sisterly advice to a Christmas present later that year. In the mail came this message on a plaque, "Be still and know that I am God."

I did not feel an immediate connection, merely a sweetness, in the message. The plaque went on a windowsill. When I moved, it went into a box for almost a year.

Until just this past week the message was locked in that box. Monday I determined to decorate my dining room and finding myself with art too small to cover a large expanse of empty wall, I thought of my sister's plaque and dedicated that wall to it. It is at the top, above a cross and several pieces of art that demonstrate being still, knowing God. There is only one character moving in all the pictures, Judas dipping his bread into Christ's bowl at a rendition of the Last Supper. "There," I thought, looking at the arrangement. "That'll fix that."

Then Thursday, I signed in for the retreat and the Bible verse chosen for it was revealed to be that very same one. I felt the nudge, that invitation, that stir in my heart that said, "Will you listen?"

I am being still. I am listening. 

I am learning.

One thing that I have learned is that, even when you think you are answering one call, it turns out to be another. Sometimes the plan was laid for you long ago.

The liturgical year of the Catholic Church is based on the date of Easter, which is based on the Vernal Equinox and the phases of the moon. So the same feast may occur on different dates year after year. Two years ago, my sister visited me and graciously sang songs with my little choir on the feast of Corpus Christi. I say graciously because she is Mormon and I am Catholic, and the theology of Christ on this feast day is one where our faiths diverge. She sang anyway, her voice and her choice were a gift to me.

My retreat ended two years later, on a Sunday, on the feast of Corpus Christi.

Two years ago she saw something in my life that needed stillness, God, and listening. The retreat was built around the very phrase she chose to give to me. 

Also on the retreat were three sets of sisters: half sisters, full sisters, and one set of five sisters. God meant for me to be on this retreat. God meant for me to notice all the many ways that this relationship of sisterhood is played out.

I am listening.

Image source: http://miriadna.com/preview/501

"For those who believe, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not believe, no explanation is possible."-- Author Unknown

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